This paper seeks to provide comparative analysis of early childhood education policy between France and the United States. The discussion will focus on the programs origin and what the programs were intended to achieve. The study will look at the focus, of the programs, the beneficiaries and the cost. In analyzing the early childhood policy outcome in the two countries, the paper assesses the successes as well as the shortcomings of the policy programs. The federal government has not developed a policy on early childhood education that is applicable in the nation.
As opposed to the comprehensive early child education policy in France. The U. S. government has only been supporting specific preschool programs for those children from poor neighborhoods and low income families. This trend is also evident in the various states which have not been able to come up with early childhood policy that can be used uniformly by education stakeholders throughout the state. Earl childhood education program is largely left in the hands of private education providers through kindergartens. (Mitchell, A. , Ripple, C. , & Chanana, N. , 1998, p. 24).
The Early childhood education policy by the government is defined in its actions which in regulating the demand and supply of early childhood education services. In implementing early childhood policy, the government provides direct and indirect financial subsidies to private providers of these services in the form of grants, contracts and tax incentives. Provision of direct and indirect financial support to parents of children in early childhood program. This support may be in the form of cash benefits, tax benefits to offset the cost of this service and vouchers to pay for the service.
The government also participates by regulating players in the field of early childhood education through legislation. Early childhood education program in the U. S are run on a full day of part time basis and they include pre-kindergartens, kindergartens, compensatory education programs and nursery schools. The other programs that support early childhood education include childcare centres, family support programs, before and after school programs, family type day care homes. Because there is no clear line between the government and private support in this sector.
(OECD Country report, 2000, p. 5) There is no clear data concerning the cost of early childhood education in United States. However, the federal spending on the program has been very minimal compared to grade k-12. Studies in the year 2002 reveals that the states spent 2. 5 billion dollars on early childhood education while the federal government spent 6. 5billion on early childhood program. This is in exclusion of funds spent on pre-primary education for special students. This is the contrary of the case in France where the government full funds its early childhood education program.
Then enrolment in early childhood program for the year 2002 was estimated at 750,000 with 85% enrolled in private institutions. In the United States, the government has a policy that ensures quality, affordability, and availability of child care for all families. The Child Care Bureau administers federal funds to states, territories, and tribes to assist eligible families including low-income families. The childcare bureaus provide childcare for children when the parents work or participate in allowable education or training activities.
Through the Child Care Bureau funds various Technical Assistance projects that promote quality, strengthen program administration are supported. The funds are also used to finance Good Start which is the president’s initiative towards early childhood education as well as carry out research to help policy makers. The child care programs in the United States involved the administrators, parents and other stakeholders than in the case of France that is more regulated from above. According to OECD report (2000, p. 21).
Most children are enrolled in private institutions compared to those in public institutions with most parents taking their children for part time programs. This is illustrated in the table below showing enrolment in early childhood education programs in thousands. The only early childhood policy that received direct support by the federal government is the introduction of Head start program to take care of those children from low income families. This program is funded by the federal government of the U. S since it caters for the children of the financially deprived parents from poor neighbourhood. According to OECD report (2000, p.
18) The cost of funding this program has increased steadily, reaching almost $4. 7 billion in fiscal year 1999 and $5. 27 billion in fiscal year 2000. This program was started as a strategy to deal with problems associated with children from poor neighbourhood. Dealing with their emotional, cognitive, social and cognitive deficits ensured a well rounded individual who was prepared to adopt a life style that made them productive individuals from poor homes. The major aim is however to academically prepare students for their primary school studies. According to Mitchell, A. , Ripple, C. , & Chanana, N. (1998, p. 34-50).
Research shows that those students who had undergone early childhood programs like Head Start had fewer referrals for remedial classes or special education. These students were also more likely to remain in regular classes throughout their public school years. Fewer retentions rate as preschool graduates were less likely to repeat grades. The students maintained excellent scores very few of them had failing grades in their school years. The students were acknowledged by their teachers as having greater social and emotional maturity and had a high probability of completing their high school studies without dropping out.
Due development of positive attitude about school at an early age, these students had greater academic motivation, on-task behavior, capacity for independent work, and time spent on homework. Lower incidence of absenteeism/detentions. Graduates had lower incidences of absenteeism and detentions. Preschool graduates had much higher scores on measures of attitude toward school and toward particular subject areas those who attended early childhood education are found to have better self-esteem, greater internal locus of control compared to those who never attend the program.
Preschool education is believed to help in preventing unwanted pregnancies among young school girls. The program is also believed to reduce incidences of indiscipline like drug abuse and delinquent acts among students, this some researchers believe is due to the introduction of rules and regulations to students at an early age hence contributing to positive upbringing. Due to improved self esteem developed from an early age, preschool graduates are more likely to participate in social activities like sports and community work.
As opposed to those who did not attend early education, the beneficiaries have a better meaning for education and develop high future aspirations. This also contributes to the likelihood of them enrolling and completing their secondary education. These benefits of early childhood education are extending to the society as beneficiaries have a higher possibility of securing better paying jobs hence reducing dependency in the society. There is high unlikelihood that these people will engage in antisocial behavior in the society. (Morgan, G. , Azer, S. , Costley, J. , Genser, A.
, Goodman, I. , Lombardi, J. , and McGimsey, B. , 1993, p. 45, 78). The Head Start program is however accused of contributing to inequality in the education arena as those who are considered financially stable have been ignored. This is no longer a shortfall in France as their early childhood policy caters for all children despite their family backgrounds. The increasing number of mothers securing jobs is however increasing government participation in provision of early childhood programs especially in those kindergartens which are integrated in public primary schools.
For instance, District of Columbia is made kindergarten attendance a legal requirement for children. (OECD Country report, 2000, p. 14) The diagram below illustrate the increasing number of working mothers with children under age six due U. S policy on Early childhood education and care between 1960 and 1999. Despite lack of comprehensive policy regarding early childhood education, a lot of expenditure has been incurred in supporting efforts towards achieving the same. The figures reported by OECD report( 2000, p. 23) is an illustration of cost of efforts employed by U.
S to achieve ECEC as compared between 1992 and 1999 constant dollar reported in millions of dollars. As opposed to the United States, France has a clear government policy regarding earl childhood education. The program is publicly funded and caters for those children between the ages of 2-6 year olds known as Ecole Maternelle. The system has specific programs for those children under age three and it is administered under the Ministry of Education delivered under education auspices of the ministere de la Jeunesse, de l’Education nationale et de la Recherche.
(Oberhuemer, P. , & Ulich, M. , 1997, p. 27). These programs are freely provided by the government for eight hours during the day including breaks like lunchtime. Extension beyond these hours is optional and those parents who work for longer hours can pay for additional hours that their children are taken care of at early childhood education centres. Since these programs are meant to benefit children and their parents who earn poorly, the additional charges levied on parents take into consideration the parent’s income.
Any child starting school has to go through ecole maternelle which is the preparatory level in the education system. (OECD Country report, 2004, p. 4-7). Early preschool education is divided into three sections namely: the little section, middle section and large section. The little section is meant for three year olds, the middle section is for four-year-olds and large section is for five-year-olds. Two year olds belong to very little section.
France is also committed to empowering the low income parents just like Head Start in the United States hence the government organizes bridging activities for those who are about to start schooling in poor neighborhoods. Such a program is supposed to familiarize the learners with the academic in readiness for school system. The table below shows the trends in the percentage of children in the ecole maternelle by age as from the year 1960-2002 according to French background report in 2003.